Picture of War© (Poem – Racławice Panorama)

Who we were – was swapped that day, as each became a number,

Ordered and drilled into lines, we gathered in sonorous slumber.

Opening gate was easy, walking through just a blur

Not prepared for what awaited me, anticipation jolted nerves.


Then and there it struck me, stretched out on canvassed wall

Film from long forgotten days – recording our unsavoury traverse.

Stood aghast I marvelled, confronted by picture of war

Nature of human sacrifice, described only in rancid curse.


He was there to greet me, stood proud with fixed bayonet

Blood leaked from his temple, towards me, he appeared to stretch

He coldly glared with gritted teeth, expectant of my move

I froze a chill and stared at him, determined to disapprove.

I called him Killer – Murderer.  Accused, he remained unmoved,

Evidence scattered all around him, yet, his rifle remained unused.


Thatched log cabin had seen better days, and this was to be its worst.

A red dress wept behind it, hit hard by reaper’s curse;

Onlookers marched carrying grim scythes, kin prayed for all their worth

Captain pointed the way to all, leading bravely – no fear of first.


Dust clouds rose hiding the scramble, as regiments met to clash,

Muzzles raised and set to fire, cannons too close to blast.


Crooked was the body, which rested in the dirt

As his friend stood beside him, wrestling to stop more hurt.

Other bodies were lay strewn, empty of their souls

Enviously staring up at me: uninjured, unharmed and whole.


Sweeping hills encircled, tranquillity trapping all,

Horses race along the track, while riflemen bet they’ll fall.

Echelons waiting in the wings, skirmishes on the side,

An unconventional duck shoot: hit target from its ride.


Generals stood on vantage points, seemingly beckoning me to report

As quickly as I checked in, they’d already turned to observe

Cavalry flanking left and right, riflemen in medley

Pikes and staffs could not hold charge, still the peasants did their piece.


Dizzy from experience; dwarfed by colossal size,

Fatigue and hunger panged at me, I joined a ragged line

Heading for the exit, a steep, spiral decline.


As I left the building, forever a changed man.

In my mind, a concept swelled, then began to dwell.

Had I been to war that day? No scars on me to prove

And though it’s true, I felt something, emotions are a tool

Manipulated by silver screen, eyes and ears will read a story

Mind tells body what it thinks, which then suffers pain or glory.


But no one fell by my hand, yet each tarred with the same brush

Thus at night, when head hit pillow, it’s the only thing I’d hurt.

I’ve seen and been, and done nothing, except dance among my thoughts

And when accusing eyes greet me, I hope first they think and pause:


Should I consider this experience true, or meaningless insignificance?

Should bigoted minds cast aspersions, or be denied in due course?

Should I be guilty of the crimes, painted rivers run to hide?

Should I have won or lost that day, when I stood on neither side?

Am I the hero on the hill, or cowering under cross?

Am I forever to be tainted, with artist’s condemning brush?


©Do not copy and edit, or reproduce without permission from the author (Abelia May) and full acknowledgement of the author (Abelia May) and website address




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